Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Steve Earle: Train a Comin' [Winter Harvest, 1995]
When the vernacular flows easy or sounds that way, a rare thing, five wives and enough heroin to destroy a saner man are the kind of myth rock and roll fools are always mistaking for reality. And clean though Earle may be, he's not above or beyond embracing that myth--among his latest celebrations of romantic dysfunction is one where he all but dares the object of his obsession to call the cops. Better the laconic narratives and pipeline to the great American tune clusters of this alternative offering, a trad reimmersion with Norman Blake and Peter Rowan picking mandolins and dobros as Earle dredges up songs by his fine young self. "Tom Ames' Prayer" and "Hometown Blues," from '76 and '77, are as undeniable as any Earle this side of "The Devil's Right Hand." And so are "Angel Is the Devil" and "Ben McCulloch," from '92 and '95. A-